Embarking on a career at sea, Northern Marine Deck Cadet David McLintock gives an authentic and fascinating account of his first full voyage aboard a crude oil tanker. During an eventful five month trip onboard the Stena Progress, David discovers what life at sea is really like and finds out if his preconceived hopes, aspirations and worries are true to life. The British 25-year-old university graduate gives an honest account of the highs and lows onboard a ship, while shedding light on the fledgling steps into one of the world’s oldest and most famed professions.
Entry 1 - Buenos Aries and Beyond
I'm finally heading for my vessel! Bags packed, due at the airport in an hour and my whole family and girlfriend have decided to see me off. I was just about to leave and the telephone rings. Delayed. The ship I will be joining has been held up from berthing in Argentina due to a very uneventful Port instruction. It was almost comical that everyone had readied themselves for me leaving but then were stuck with me for an extra week.
On Wednesday the 13th April I boarded my flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam then on to Buenos Aires. From here I would join the Stena Progress for my first sea phase. Leaving my loved ones at the airport is probably the hardest thing I have had to do in a long time. It was very emotional, especially seeing how upset they all were that I was leaving. It showed how much they support me, that despite how much they will miss me they are proud and happy for me to go. And I think this filled me with the confidence I needed to come and enjoy the experience despite how much I will miss them also.
Whilst in the queue to board at Glasgow I was greeted by the new 4th engineer, who was also joining the Progress, Richard. We got on immediately. It was good to have someone with experience; he was able to explain the usual procedure of what would happen before we joined the vessel.
When we arrived in Argentina we met the agent. It was surreal walking through the airport and seeing someone holding your name up. He said we were to wait for a short time until the new Captain arrived. Within 30 minutes we were introduced to Captain Vilim Anicic. I wasn’t sure how to take him at first, I had heard that cadets don't often have much in the way of contact with the captain but that was far from the case. Captain Anicic was very engaging and friendly, and any reservations at first quickly dissipated.
We travelled on to the hotel where we were to stay for at least the night and await further news. My excitement was starting to build. Ten days later we departed for the ship. Yes, ten. Apparently this is uncommon; the terminal had an issue and it meant the Progress got delayed as a consequence. I wasn't for complaining though; I got to spend a good amount of time in an interesting city and got to know more about the Captain and 4th Engineer.
Up until I reached the bottom of the gangway ladder. I had to haul my bag up the whole way and it had burst after about 2 steps. I was starting to feel like this wasn't going to go well. However, I was soon greeted by an incredibly welcoming crew and any hesitations I had disappeared. Everyone from the messman to the departing captain were very friendly and I already felt like I was part of the team.
Before Captain Srivastava disembarked he gave me some sound advice about how I should conduct myself and that I should try to learn as much as possible from everyone; I am very grateful that he took the time to do that.
I was given my PPE, shown to my cabin and given my familiarisation right away. It was all happening very fast, but it was great. Before I even realised it I was helping the 3rd officer Jonathan and the crew bring on the new stores. This set the tone for my life so far on the ship.
I am now two weeks into my contract and have learned a tremendous amount already. I've quickly realised that you will get out what you put in during your cadetship. I have largely shadowed and assisted the 3rd and 2nd officers John and Viachislav, as well as the Chief Officer Tonci. All of the officers, including the engine department, have been very willing to teach and help.
So far I have been part of cargo operations; safety checks; keeping logs; watchkeeping; updating charts; interacting with the shore; learning how to use the navigational systems on the bridge; plotting during a voyage and assisted in passage planning.
Most of the things I have been doing so far are things that you get shown and taught about in college. However, it is nothing compared to the practical learning you receive on ship. College merely sets the building blocks out but until you have observed it first hand or completed it yourself, you will never truly understand these things.
Although, just like home, working isn't everything. I have become friends with most of the people on board already and it makes a huge difference. You learn to rest when you get the opportunity and that the little things go a long way to reducing how much you miss some of the comforts of home.
I'd also recommend taking the time to socialise with the other crew members when possible. Watching films, playing games or just chatting to folk makes your time on the ship much more enjoyable. I've also spent some time in the gym here to keep myself occupied and the surprisingly good food has been comforting after working long hours.
I have definitely missed my loved ones more than I imagined but I like to remain positive about that side of the job. My girlfriend Steff is moving to Canada soon so I plan on visiting her before I return to college; having something to look forward to in the end is motivating. My two weeks have flown by and I know it won't be too long before I am home with them so I plan on enjoying my time on board while I can.
Alas, we have finished our cargo operations in Buenos Aires and are set to head off to Rio Grande, Brazil. I'm not sure what lies in store yet beyond Rio Grande but I am certainly looking forward to it! My aims moving forward are to get stuck in to my Training Record Book and to continue taking in as much as I can from the officers and crew around me. As a side note, I'm going to attempt to not shave whilst I am onboard and see how long I can last or how long it will grow...
Entry 2 - Brazil: "I felt a sense of pride thinking it was my ship"
Brazil has been a totally different experience so far compared to Buenos Aires.
It took us two days to arrive in Rio Grande where we had a ship inspection by Port state control. Passing this inspection meant the ship would be accepted into a new charter. It was an unusually tense affair to begin with but it passed without any problems, and thus the partnership has begun.
We were given orders to shift to Rio de Janeiro where we were to await further orders. This has been the norm so far in Brazil; awaiting orders. We spent ten days in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer and everyone was glad of the extra rest. Being able to see such a magnificent sight, and also the famous Copacabana beach was something I will never forget.
The days go faster working six hours on and six hours off whilst loading or discharging but it tires you out. For myself, anchorage means a more routine 8-5 working day and more opportunities around the ship. This time awaiting further instruction has allowed for lots of maintenance and other jobs to be carried out which has benefitted me.
I got to enter a Water Ballast tank for the first time. Enclosed spaces are one of the most dangerous aspects of shipping, and one that was drilled into us at college and on all of our courses. Despite this, I was excited to enter the tank. Chief Officer Tonci took myself and fellow Deck Cadet Louise down whilst the Pumpman Joey carried out some maintenance work. I not only found it interesting but beneficial to see the inside of a tank as ‘Ship Architecture’ was a subject in college I struggled with at times. This insight cleared up any confusion and a lot of the terms I had learned finally made complete sense.
Another day at anchorage was one of the hardest days work I have ever undertook physically. The third officer John needed all of the fire hoses on the ship collected from around the accommodation; the engine room and the deck so they could be pressure tested to check for leaks or damage. I hauled all of the hoses to the poop deck and was glad of having Richard the 4th Engineer’s help when it came to collecting the hoses from the oven: that is the engine room. We tested all of the hoses in the afternoon and after isolating the few faulty hoses had to return all of the hoses to their positions. Later on John taught me how to repair the few hoses with leaks, so I got to learn a valuable skill as well as get a decent workout.
One thing of note recently is that the majority of the crew are due to go home now or in the coming weeks. Due to the delicate nature of getting a Brazilian Visa everyone, even those whose contract has finished, are having to wait until their relief can be granted the Visa. Selfishly I would have been ecstatic if the current crew were to all stay on board for my whole contract, as I get on well with everyone. However when you see people missing their loved ones, especially those with children, you can't help but wish they could go home immediately. I've managed to stay in regular contact with my girlfriend, family and friends back home due to the ships wifi and phone. For me it has certainly made the going a lot easier that I can message them and hear their voices every day. My girlfriend has came around to the idea of me growing a beard and has encouraged me to keep it till I visit her in Canada. So I will continue to grow it out if I can manage; it's at the designer stubble stage at the moment but I think the itchy stage is on its way.
Although we haven't even had the chance to go ashore due to where we are moored, I have still been enjoying my down time. I get on well with the Scottish contingent onboard but also with the Russian second officer whom I am regularly on watch with. We often spend time watching films in the day room, playing Fifa on the Xbox or listening to Louise and John sing and play guitar.
My Training Record Book has being going well too. I have been getting plenty signed off and I have really cracked on with my reports. I must say the Chief Officer Tonci has been very helpful, as he is always willing to help and keen for us to have good reports from our time on the Progress.
The last few weeks have definitely been different but no less enjoyable. I will be sad to see the back of the people who leave but meeting new people is an exciting prospect as well. It has certainly been an eye opener to how things don't always go as planned and the difficulties that can arise at sea.
We are still working slightly in the unknown but I am excited for what lies ahead. I plan on continuing to work hard and learning as much as possible, and hopefully be given some more responsibility to help the people around me more.
I can't believe I have been aboard the ship for two months already! Time truly has flown in. It is encouraging that I am roughly half way through my contract and I feel like I've barely been here at all. Despite missing my family and feeling like I have learnt an enormous amount, it seems like yesterday I joined.
I have typical duties that I help with around the ship. On deck I help the 3rd mate with most maintenance jobs that he looks after. It's good preparation for what I will be doing once I qualify. Also on deck, the chief may ask me to check the atmospheres in the cargo tank; essentially making sure the atmosphere hasn't entered the flammable range where the possibility of explosion exists. Luckily we are a very safe ship and that is not a problem.
The other side of work is on the bridge. Here I am effectively an extra lookout for whoever is the Officer of the Watch. My duties on the bridge usually consist of position plotting, keeping logs, helping to update charts and publications and trying to learn the rules of the road.
There is other less glamorous jobs as well. I am now an expert in stenciling! If you need a nice quote for your bedroom wall I'm your man. Painting is another one which usually follows the stenciling but that isn't so bad. But at times I am just an extra pair of hands to help Chief or the Pumpman on deck. I enjoy the dirty side of the job as well though and helping on deck is usually a time to learn something new.
The whole crew had to have their visas ratified at the Federal Police Station in Porto Alegre which meant we had to go ashore. We were anchored off Tramandai which meant a small boat had to come and take us ashore. It was an exciting experience leaving the ship down the accommodation and pilot ladder. The trip once off the ladder ... not so much. I was definitely feeling a bit green getting thrown around in the tiny little boat, but I survived.
The rigmarole of getting the visas was very uneventful and went without a hitch so before we knew it we were headed back.
Seeing the ship from a distance and slowly getting closer was an interesting moment. You would expect most people to be sick of the sight of it, but I felt a sense of pride thinking that it was my ship. I think I realised at that moment just how far I'd come (literally) to pursue what I want to do.
We are still only operating in Brazil but it is a very fascinating and beautiful country. The people I have come in contact with have been friendly and polite, and some of the views have been breathtaking. Moored in Sao Sebastiao, we were in the middle of amazing green mountains and clear blue water and my pictures or words cannot do it justice.
It was here we had our first crew change since I have arrived, and also presented the chance to go ashore. I went with the three Russians on board. Didn't think I'd ever tell a story about myself and three Russians in Brazil unless it was some joke. Nonetheless we went ashore and it was a relief to spend some time with people, off the ship. There is only so much to do on the ship so having other options was a nice change. Dmitriy, Oleg, Viachislav and myself went and played some pool for a while before going for a nice meal by the waterfront.
Two days later Louise and Dmitriy both left the ship. It was sad to see two people I had worked and lived with for the last two months to go home. I will see Louise in college and will catch up when I am home but I may never meet Dmitriy again. Thankfully due to social media I will be able to stay in contact with those I have become friends with but it was something I never really considered. I expected to miss my family and friends being away, I never expected to eventually miss those from the ship.
However, people leaving does mean new people joining so we got a new second engineer, Brian. He seems like a nice guy so far from the time I have spent with him. This has given me some ease, to remember that although good people and friends are leaving, new ones will take their place.
We are currently heading to Itaqui, dangerously close to the equator. A ships baptism might have been easier with a fellow cadet to share the load but I will still be safe for the time being. The crew built a basketball net and it is excellent. We finally managed to get some basketballs so I look forward to having a few games once we are underway again.
I have gotten to the point where I am comfortable in most areas of the ship, so I am able to go off on my own and do jobs. I want to just consolidate what I already know at the moment and start focusing on getting some steering time. Above all else though I think I will be trying to get some shooting practice in before we all start playing some basketball...
Entry 3: Friends for life
Well it would seem I am not the basketball player I thought I was! Little did I know when joining the ship that the national sport of the Philippines’ is basketball. They are amazing. I am only useful because (luckily) I am taller than everyone else who plays except for Slava the 2nd mate.
I have really enjoyed being able to get more active in my time off and I've grown closer to most of the crew as we have spent more time together. There has been talk of basketball strips being brought onboard by one of the new Filipino crew that someone knows, but I'll keep you posted on that.
My girlfriend Steff has just moved over to Canada which hasn't been easy. She decided to go and live there for two years and to work as an architect which is her profession. However, these things take a great deal of courage and are hard to do on your own. I wish I could help her more at the moment but I know she'll be alright and get herself settled in no time. It is probably the first time I have thought I'd rather be at home (well Canada) so that I could help her out.
I've lost all my of my friends! I'm exaggerating, but the whole deck team minus the Captain and myself have departed and been replaced by new officers. It was actually pretty sad. I have grown close to John and Slava and spend a lot of my spare time with them, so it'll take some getting used to not having them around. I will miss the Chief Tonci as well as I worked with him every day and he was a great teacher. We did have a good last day though. The European Championships are underway in France and we finally got to see some games! I was given the day off as it was a Sunday so we all sat and watched the football together, a universal language. We exchanged numbers and I have been lucky to have made friends for life.
I think I took for granted that the officers I was working with had already been onboard for a couple of months before I joined. There will definitely be some settling in time for the new crew as they get used to their new vessel. The new Chief is Romanian named Roman. Not an easy one to forget even for me. I haven't spent too much time with him so far as he was thrust into cargo operations, so he is a busy man. 2nd Mate is a Croatian, Dado. He is very laid back and has been a second for a while so he seems very confident in his job. Dado is not so different from the previous second and is always quick to laugh and joke so I reckon we will get on very well. I have spent most of my time with the new third Codrut who is also Romanian, and he is a very interesting character. My learning of the rules has definitely hit the fast forward button with him onboard, I think I needed an extra push on that side of things though which is good. He is quick with a good story about his life at sea or from back home and he seems like a nice guy.
As well as the officers, Ab's Macario and Joe left and were replaced with Michael and William plus we got a new messman Rihman. I have only really worked with William so far and quickly felt like he had been on board the whole time. With the replacements came our new Stena basketball strips! Ensue team photographs... Again it's nice to feel like part of a team, even if they do wipe the floor with me.
One of the things I have to do onboard asides from my TRB is a project from the college. Anyone studying the PD as a cadet is given a project which is split into Navigation, Operations and Safety Systems. Operations and Safety have slowly been covered over my time on the ship but I had an issue with the Navigational side. Due to the fact we are solely operation in Brazil there are certain types of calculations and navigation that we do not carry out that I require. So, Slava the previous second came up with the idea of me doing a basic passage plan from Monetvideo to Cape Town and this would include everything I need.
As I am mostly doing this in my spare time it has carried over to the new crew but I was proud of the end result. Slava was a big help and helped me lay out all the information I needed and what publications and such to read to make a reasonable passage plan. Dado was helpful too and it was good to have a different perspective as he mentioned things that I hadn't picked up on so far.
It was Captain Anicic though who helped me out most. He is always making sure I'm doing alright and will ask what I have been doing or learning and also point me in the right direction if I do need help with anything. On my project he seemed to take an extra interest and I am truly grateful. The Captain told me things that neither the Second [Officer] or even the books had shown me. I guess that is why he is in the position he is.
At the moment I am just typing up my project so I have it ready for returning to college. I will continue to work on my TRB and the rules but generally just continue doing my regular duties. The main thing though is for me to get into a new routine and to get to know the new team better.
We had been anchored out of Itaqui expecting to go back in for further discharging but we have been sent to Suape to load some more cargo instead. Things like this doesn't surprise me anymore so I guess I am getting used to the life of a seaman. Speaking of the life of a seaman, I have quite the sea beard now. It's for sure the longest I have ever had any facial hair, and well past the itchy stage now so I might go for a ginger Gandalf look, who knows!
I suppose I must be enjoying my time at sea more than I realised. It turns out I was expected to be going home at the same time as the Captain and Richard. That would take me to around 3 months sea time which isn't too bad for my first trip I guess. However I asked to stay on for longer if it is possible. I had thought I was to be on for at least 4 months so it seemed like an easy decision, plus it puts me in a greater standing in terms of fulfilling my 12 months required sea time.
My mum wasn't too pleased when I told her, she went from having me home in 3 weeks or so to closer to 3 months, but I think she understands that it helps me out in the long run and it means I get to learn more as well. I'll find out if it was the right decision in the end I guess.
Apart from that I've just been working away and getting to know the new crew better as I work with them. Maybe it's the fact you live together as well but it feels like you've known everyone for a lot longer than you have. Chief is a funny guy, he's told me a lot about life at sea, the good and the bad. 2nd is a good laugh, he helps me a lot with things on the bridge and we go to the gym together sometimes. And 3rd is always quick with a good story from sea life or from home, he may well be the politest person I have ever met.
Since the last time, we shifted to Suape to load the ship, returned to Itaqui and discharged some of our cargo and then went to Guamare and discharged the rest. All in all, nothing really different than what we've been doing. I'm confident now in loading/discharging and ballasting which is obviously very important. Daily maintenance tasks and any errands that are required of me, I am able and happy to do. Navigation wise I have been going through the rules as much as possible and continuing to get as much steering time as I can.
Although much of what I'm doing is the same, it doesn't feel repetitive or mundane. I enjoy it and at this point I am already looking forward to qualifying. I think having my own duties and responsibilities would make the job even better, because as much as I enjoy shadowing and assisting (which I need to require learning) being able to go off and do my own thing so others can do theirs would suit me well. However, I know that is all someway off still at this point but I am for sure looking forward to it anyway.
Just when it seemed that we'd continue with our usual Brazilian routes, news broke through the ship. New York. We were going to be loading in Brazil and then heading to New York to discharge and then, we were just waiting on confirmation. As the ship headed to Rio De Janeiro to load, we were rerouted to Suape after a change of orders. The vessel was to now head to Suape for clearance and then head to Amsterdam!
I was somewhat disappointed if I'm being honest. New York is one of the places in the world I would love to visit, and going there isn't an opportunity one always gets. So heading to somewhere an hour away on the plane from home instead was a bit gutting at first. The more I thought about it though the better I felt. I've only heard good things about Amsterdam and I know my girlfriend and her family love it for a start. Besides it’s somewhere I have never visited outside of Schiphol Airport so it would be nice to see it for real.
I think just having a change from Brazil and possibly getting some shore leave is what excited the crew and myself so much. For me it also means the longest voyage I will have undertaken in my short seagoing career. The longest so far has been 6 days and this promises to be around 14. From what I've been told, the longer the voyage the better in terms of time moving quickly, and in terms of having a more pleasant experience in regards to some good rest time.
This is where I leave you for the moment. We have just gained clearance from Petrobras in Suape and we are preparing the engines to leave and head to Amsterdam. The Captain, Richard and Andrei the ETO are all due off which means there will be no surviving officers on the ship since I joined. I will be sad for them to go, particularly my two Argentina buddies. The Captain might seem a bit boisterous to someone who doesn't know him, but he is a nice, funny guy and he has done a lot for me while I've been onboard. And Richard will be missed. Since meeting in the airport in Glasgow, we are always talking about home, tv shows, football or playing Fifa and generally just having a laugh. The upside is I know when I get home we will definitely meet up, so it isn't so bad after all.
Entry 4: Amsterdam
So I haven’t updated in a few weeks unfortunately due to being so busy.
We had a nice 13 day voyage from Brazil to Amsterdam and I would definitely agree that longer trips are better.
It allows the crew from both departments to properly plan out what jobs they want to do, especially if some require a few days to carry out. Generally though, it is just more relaxed knowing there isn't constant maneuvering, mooring/anchoring or loading/discharging. And although this would keep you busy, and sharp to the job, it can wear you out a bit.
Most of my voyage to Amsterdam I continued to assist the 2nd and 3rd mates in their duties. I helped with chart corrections and I also got to help plot the route to Amsterdam with Dado. And with Codrut, when I wasn't helping with all of his safety duties, he was quizzing me on my rules of the road.
However, I have been working with Chief mate a lot more and he has been teaching me various parts of his job. I helped with the ballast exchange, removing the water we have in our ballast tanks and replacing it all due to certain regulations. This required us to work out all the forces that would be acting on the ship during the exchange and it was very interesting and beneficial to be shown how to do this.
Part of our voyage saw us cross the Equator! Now normally for a seafarer that would mean a seafaring tradition called a 'baptism'. I was definitely a mixture of apprehensive and excited. I was sure nothing could be worse than anything I have already experienced from playing rugby. The day of passing and nothing happened. It was a Saturday though and Richard believed they would 'baptise' me on the Sunday once everyone had finished working. He was very keen to at least shave my head. Sunday came and went without punishment (for lack of a better word) and I was quite disappointed. I'm not sure of the lore on unbaptised seamen, but I doubt it is a good omen.
Bad luck charm or not, we arrived at Amsterdam smoothly. The weather was thankfully good the whole way as I had expected to meet some kind of heavy rolling at some point but we were lucky on that front.
Entering Amsterdam was very interesting from the deck side of things. It meant going through my first lock. The lock is designed to maintain the flow of water from the sea into the rivers and channels they connect to. As a result, currents aren't an issue so the depth can be maintained allowing easier navigation for ships.
You enter the lock from whichever side you are coming from, and secure the vessel to the shore. The gate is then shut behind you and water is either pumped in or out to raise or lower the water level to the same as the water level you are moving into. This is all controlled by the shore, and when they are ready, they open the gate and you move on...
There was no time to sit and relax once we had arrived though. I had agreed to do the bunkering with the engineers as it was something useful for me to learn. This meant working through the night while the ship loaded Fuel Oil and Diesel Oil. I spent most of the night with Richard as he showed me the tasks he performs during the job and what to look out for. Mainly it involved checking the levels in the tanks to ensure the tanks were filling up, and with the right type of oil. It was nice to be part of the engine department for a few hours and see how the other half work.
This would be the last I got to work with Richard as he, the Captain and Andrei all left. Captain Sachin returned first and Captain Vilim departed shortly after. It was sad to see him go as I have been with him and Richard since day 1.
He was a great help to me and I would definitely like to sail under him again. Richard and Andrei then left later on. I have become good friends with Richard so I will definitely see him back in Glasgow when I'm home. And I knew how excited he was to get home for his holiday with his girlfriend so I couldn't even feel bad that he was leaving. Andrei had been very quiet on the ship, but we had often played chess together and watched the football when we managed to catch some of the European Championships. This signalled the last of the officers who had been onboard when I started this adventure. A new Indian ETO Anil and a 3rd Engineer Przemyslaw from Poland joined.
Some good news after losing my Argentina buddies was that I finally got some more shore leave! The plan had been to go out with Dado the 2nd Officer but unfortunately he had to stay and help with something. Undeterred I ventured out into Amsterdam alone. It was a fair walk to the end of the terminal and I decided to call the local Seamen's Centre and they kindly came and picked me up. I wasn't overly bothered about getting off the ship, I had just felt like it would be a waste not to explore a city I had never visited before. Sadly, I did not do much adventuring that night and spent it mostly chatting to various people at the Seaman's centre and calling home to speak to my family and Steff. The next day was much more enjoyable.
I headed out with Dado as had been planned the night before and we had a great time. We got a taxi into the centre of Amsterdam and just went for a wander. It was extremely busy and turned out to be the Gay Pride parade. There was lots going on with plenty of music stands and entertainment around. We walked for a while and eventually stopped for some food. I personally love the food on the ship but the Steak I had was delightful. The locals were very friendly and helpful, and it really is a beautiful city. Some people visit Amsterdam for less honest vices but it was nice to just walk around and see all the interesting buildings and the canals.
Dado was on watch at midnight so we didn't stay out too long, but I'm glad I got to see somewhere like Amsterdam. We left the day after and we are on our way back to Itaqui, Brazil. Another benefit of these long voyages is that time flies so by the time you reach your destination, you are even closer to going home than before.
Going home has started to play on my mind a lot more of late. When we arrive in Itaqui I will only have around 3-4 weeks remaining. It is hard not to get excited about seeing my family, friends and Steff. My plan has always been to go visit Steff in Canada and stay until I have to return to college and I really can't wait. This isn't to say I'm fed up with the ship, far from it, but I will be glad to see my loved ones.
The journey back to Brazil is likely to be busy in the beginning that's for sure. We took on so many spares and provisions that we will be dealing with that for a while I reckon. Hopefully we get the same weather as we did en route here, and have more smooth sailing.
Entry 5: A Championship Victory
Well I wasn't wrong about being busy in the beginning with all our new stuff. Inventory after inventory after inventory. From working in Next [department store] I am no stranger to a bit of stock take though so it was not a problem.
I also got to spend some time with Anil the new ETO as I was employed to help set up our new routers and server for the ship's internet. He is a very pleasant man and always asks me how everything is back home, particularly with Steff in Canada. His son is about to embark on his own journey to Toronto, Canada for University and I can see how much he misses him already.
Captain Sachin has been a good change of pace for me as well. I feel my learning had perhaps stagnated a little apart from the new things with Chief, but he has got me on my toes again. He's always quick to ask me questions and gauge how much or little I know. He also studied in Glasgow as a Cadet so it is nice to have someone to talk about home still since Richard has left.
I must say though he is a keen admirer of my beard. He would like to try and grow one to show his young son but we shall see in a month if it's anywhere as good as myn.
Chief has got me helping him with the discharge plan for reaching Brazil. I didn't expect to be given the chance to help with something like that so I am very grateful. Like the ballast exchange, we have to work out all of the stresses on the ship while we discharge our cargo. We have to consider which tanks we are pumping from, which ones to empty first and also that we need to ballast simultaneously to keep the ship in the correct condition at all points of the discharge. I really don't know how Chief mates do it sometimes. Between dealing with the crew, maintenance and everything else they deal with I must commend the two Chiefs I have sailed with anyway.
Since Amsterdam recreation on the ship has definitely got better. We received a shiny new treadmill and cross trainer which myself and Codrut assembled, and some spare parts for the existing treadmill which still needs to be fixed. It certainly gives me something different to do in the gym anyway and running is one thing I have missed. I went from playing rugby three times a week and the odd game of football here and there to basically nothing besides what we get from basketball. So it has been a nice change up. We also received 100 new dvds so it's good to have extra options from newer films.
The most exciting thing though is that we held a basketball tournament. Over 4 days 4 teams battled it out to see who would be crowned champions of the Stena Progress Basketball Championship. Everyone got really into it, even those who decided not to play. There were prizes to be won also for 1st place and 2nd place and also for the best player of the tournament. I am proud to say that Team 4 containing Bosun Pepito, A/B William and yours truly were victorious and claimed 1st place. Us winning certainly had nothing to do with William being the best player of the tournament of course, and my contribution was undoubtedly needed...
That pretty much brings us up to date for now. We are due to arrive in Itaqui in two days for discharging. It should bring with it more change as a few members of the crew are set to go home if their relievers can make it on time. Bosun, Sammy and Omar are amongst the best people onboard and are also very good at their jobs so will be sorely missed.
I am looking forward to discharging as I had a hand in helping create the plan, so hopefully there are no complications. It definitely makes things more interesting when you have personally contributed to it as well so I'm glad Chief has been getting me more involved with some more important jobs. I have been continuing with my Training Record Book as always, and I finished typing up my project as well. For now I aim to just continue learning what I can before I leave.
Entry 6: More Responsibility
So we have returned to Brazil. We’ve been busy of late so I haven’t updated in a while. I crossed the Equator for the second time in my seafaring career but we had too many jobs for any kind of "baptism". We were preparing everything for entering Itaqui to discharge after a longer voyage than normal.
We arrived in Itaqui and discharged as planned. It certainly made a difference, having a hand in the discharge plan. I felt a lot more responsible for how things were going. However, it wasn’t to do with discharging that was so interesting at Itaqui, I was in charge of a mooring party (under supervision of course) and it was great.
Mooring is a very important and also a dangerous job so it is certainly beneficial to get to grips with it before you are fully qualified. We were unmooring which is simpler, but I still felt it was very important. The guys on my team have bundles of experience and helped me out a lot. I probably made a few mistakes although it is a job that you improve the more you do it so it helps to start before you are already an officer and expected to be in charge.
The ship received orders to load in Santos and so that is where we headed next, but not before the guys signed off. We received a new Bosun, AB Gilbert and Fitter Jefferson. Like I said before the previous guys were very good at their jobs and were good characters on the ship so will be missed.
The voyage was around 6 days and allowed us to continue with our maintenance and to do some drills. The crew have embarked on chipping and painting the steam line on the ship which is a massive job but as usual they are up to the task. The ballast tanks and some of the void spaces are due for inspection so I will hopefully be assisting the chief with that.
Much to my dismay my laptop has decided to kick the bucket. All of my films, tv shows and games have all been lost to me, for the time being at least. Despite my own and others efforts no one has been able to sort the problem. It has certainly made things harder. I still have access to a computer, I can watch films in the day room so I still have entertainment, I’ve just lost the comfort of being able to do it from my cabin when I want to. I perhaps took for granted the importance of having your own space on the ship, somewhere to just relax on your own and take your mind off of things.
Despite the loss of my laptop it appears I will be going home soon. 2nd Engineer Brian and myself are due to go home soon, possibly next port although most likely the one after that. I am looking forward to going home although I’ll be going straight to Canada to visit Steff so it is only a brief stop.
Our next port has been confirmed as Santos for loading. I’m glad to have the opportunity to visit somewhere new in Brazil. With the prospect of some tank inspections and hopefully leading more mooring parties, I have plenty of work to look forward to at the moment.
Well I am not going home in Santos, but I have had an excellent time. It took just over six days to arrive from Itaqui and we had plenty to do. As expected we inspected some of the ballast tanks and void spaces and I also got to go into a cargo tank as well. The Chief took me into the 1S water ballast tank and the forepeak ballast tank, which I had previously seen with Chief Tonci, as well as 1W’s and 4S cargo tanks. We also inspected the centre line void space.
On the whole the main thing we are inspecting in the ballast tanks and void spaces are for any signs of damage or corrosion. And also any signs of cargo that could have entered by some means. For us everything was in good condition so it was more helpful for me to learn where corrosion and damage most often occurs.
The cargo tanks were a different experience entirely. The tanks had been washed so that we could take our new cargoes and the Chief was going down to inspect them. Although all enclosed spaces are dangerous, cargo tanks are perhaps even more so due to the fact they have been carrying dangerous cargoes. We were very thorough as always and after all checks had been carried out we were able to enter. The architecture of the tanks is different to the ballast tanks as well as having steam lines and having the pump heads and shafts running down as well. Again the Chief took me around to show me what to look out for when carrying out an inspection of a cargo tank. For me it was yet another important job that was good for me to see as a cadet. Some of the jobs, mainly those that the Chief carries out, I may not see until I am expected to do them myself at whatever rank required thus it is important to take these opportunities and try and take as much from them.
There were no hitches when it came to loading so we were able to get some shore leave in Santos as well.
I went out twice while we were berthed although one was only briefly. The first night Dado, 3rd Engineer Dmitriy and myself went to the local shopping centre. We wandered around for a few hours, had a nice meal and bought a few souvenirs. We also had a little walk around the area but there wasn’t much to see unfortunately.
The drive in had been much better for getting a look at Santos though. There was beautiful cobbled roads and old interesting buildings, as well as new offices and shopping centres and finally run down business’ and huge favela rising in the hillside. To me this was a strong image to how I’ve found most of Brazil. There is clearly immense wealth and poverty in this country which all surrounded by this incredibly beautiful landscape and great people.
We are now heading back to Itaqui for discharging of the cargo and myself! After four and a half months I will be going home to my friends and family. It is a strange feeling, despite the length of time and how much I’ve missed them, it only feels like yesterday I left as well. I have around six days to sort everything and get all the signatures and reports I need and to get my own things ready as well.
Hopefully my last few days are smooth sailing and I can enjoy them as much as possible.
Entry 7: A voyage ends
Itaqui. I’ve now visited here more than I’ve visited my country's own capital city. However, this time is the last for the time being anyway.
My final days sailing were very enjoyable ones. The best has day has to be my late baptism though. We had planned on having a party for a while to celebrate the successful basketball tournament, people leaving/joining, birthdays etc. The ship has been so busy though that we hadn’t had a chance. Our plan was to have a half day of work, followed by a feast prepared by our galley team and then play some games. Unknown to me, my baptism was added to this plan as well.
Louise had made a horse racing game whilst on board, before I had joined, so we rolled that out and I had made some new horses for it. Everyone (bar the unfortunate Officer of the watch) was able to bet on one of five horses and then using the board a winner was determined. We had two races and “Thunder” was victorious both times. I had inside information obviously and backed it both times.
We then had a game of bingo in which 3rd Engineer Przemyslaw was victorious.
Finally we were summoned to the bridge where I was baptised. There was a drum on the bridge wing which was filled with sea water and who knows what else. I had to climb in and endure some other kinds of "torture". It was all good fun though and Dado finally got to fulfill his and Richard's wish of shaving my head.
Even though I’ll now be going home with a shaved head and a large beard to boot, it was really nice to finally be baptised. The captain made me up a certificate and that should suffice if any future officers feel like taking advantage of their cadet.
I got the last of the signatures for my Training Record Book and the Captain and Chief gave me my reviews as well that I needed. After tidying my room and packing all of my things it has finally sank in that I am leaving.
I’ve officially signed off and I’m just waiting on the agent to collect Brian and myself. The prospect of 20 hours travelling isn’t overly enticing but it means I get to go home.
The last 5 months on board have been amazing and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone I have met has been incredibly helpful to me and I think they are the reason my trip has been so enjoyable. I feel like I have learned a lot although I won’t truly know until I go back to college I suppose.
I do have plenty to look forward to. The obvious is going home to see my family, friends and girlfriend, but college too. To compare stories with my friends from class and see how all of our experiences differ, including those who are also with this company. My phase 4 isn’t until June 2017 so I definitely have some time until I join my second ship. I can only hope it was as good as my first.
David McLintock's honest account of his first voyage contains his own personal reflections and opinions and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Northern Marine Group and its subsidiary companies.